True Colors: the search for a center of gravity during an ever-expanding armory week

The art world in New York this week has been an orgiastic explosion of dinners, vernissages and parties, with hundreds of galleries opening their biggest shows in two years. While the art market may have been supported for most of the pandemic by increasingly wealthy collectors, this long sleeping beast that is Armory Week has returned for the first time since the pandemic and has raised his head in full roar. But amid all the seven-figure fanfare for new high-level masters, one thing may have gotten lost in the middle of Armory Week: The Armory Show, which had moved from its location. usual in the calendar in March otherwise asleep until prime time, the vibes of Manhattan back from school after Labor Day. The procedure resulted in a somewhat unexpected experience: Does New York Art Fair Week even need its namesake fair?

“After five more years of fairs the pendulum has turned, and with so many fairs the quality is just not there,” said Dominique Lévy, standing in the middle of the exhibition which has just opened its gallery of new work by Mickalène Thomas. Said gallery, Lévy Gorvy, did not have a booth at the Armory Show, but had already sold several of the new works, with prices ranging from $ 400,000 to $ 700,000.

“Particularly in America, where you have some of the best museums and galleries in the world, I don’t see the need for art fairs,” said Lévy, who had a fairly obvious interest in the matter, but perhaps had also be right – at this point at least. She was speaking after a tour with Thomas at the gallery on Thursday morning, exactly the same time the Armory Show opened at the Javits Center and the Independent Fair opened in the Financial District. And yet, a few dozen journalists had traveled to the Upper East Side, without a fair, rather than going to a convention center. Perhaps it helped that Lévy Gorvy, who would soon become LGDR when Lévy and his partner Brett Gorvy combine their arsenal with those of Amalia Dayan and Jeanne Greenberg Rohatyn– sent the participants with umbrellas designed by Thomas and a lunch box full of treats from Sant Ambroeus.

Thoughts on the number of fairs is too many fairs hanging in the air throughout a series of events in the first three days of the week, a dizzying wit of evenings (mostly) masks that also dotted both sides of Manhattan like, at least briefly, Brooklyn. Collectors not expressly banned from entering the country have flocked to sample the wares in a city with the world’s highest concentration of high-end contemporary art galleries. In a world where small groups can meet in such spaces, with the constant possibility of hiding outside and taking a reprieve with a mask, the thought of walking into a crowded convention center with your face covered for hours. hours, may be a little less attractive.

When they arrived at the fair Thursday morning, however, there was a commotion of collectors flipping through phone screens for vaccine proof, and the aisles were moderately packed with collectors, even some who had made it across the pond.

“We have 44 international galleries that were able to come here”, Nicole Berry, the director of the Armory, told me in an office floating above the cabins. “They have different ways of getting here. Directors have US nationality or dual nationality. Some people said “I’m going to Mexico for two weeks”, and to that I said, more power for them. “

As for the problem of everything happening at the same time, Berry saw critical mass as a rising tide that lifts all boats.

“Synergy gives people a reason to come to New York,” said Berry. “Most people – but not me! – had a pleasant and relaxing summer. Exhibitors, many have said, thank you very much for moving it to September.

But the tide seems to be particularly lifting the galleries, which not only take their eyes off the works in the Armory, but continue to invite bodies into the shows for weeks on end.

“We were trying to open as early as possible, and it’s this week – not so much thinking of the fairs, really more about maximizing the time for those shows,” said Marc Payot, partner at Hauser & Wirth, which opened both a successful Philip Guston show and his first show with young phenomena Singer Avery Thursday, just as the Armory opened. “Of course, fairs create energy and reasons for people to come, from curators to collectors. It’s certainly positive, but it was irrelevant to the decision of when we made these shows.

Singer’s suite of new eight-foot canvases in the columnless fifth-floor gallery features an abstract landscape of the shuttered sin den China chalet downtown, the scene adorned with crushed tin cans of White Claw, and it’s one of the biggest primary market shows this year for Hauser & Wirth, a first year in the works. The biggest works were on sale for a staggering $ 1.2 million – at just 34 years old, Singer remains the world’s most expensive millennial artist – and that, according to Payot, “the level of interest is very high. ; it is not a question of whether we sell, but when we sell.

Pace dismissed the fair and instead chose Thursday to launch Chelsea’s first new job on Robert Longo since leaving his longtime Metro Pictures gallery before it closed later this year. Gagosian wasn’t doing Armory either – instead he put on a mind-blowing show of gigantic and masterful new paintings of the newly christened Gago-ite. Kon Troubkovich which present the specter of modern Russia through the prism of the unraveling of technology. (Next week longtime gallery artists John currin and Nathaniel Mary Quinn opened shows in other outposts of Gagosian.) While Zwirner set up a stunning new work booth at the Armory Show, featuring pieces from Wolfgang tillmans and Nate Lowman, he did not skimp on the galleries. New work surveys by Marcel Dzama and Lisa Yuskavage open alongside an exhibition of Alice Neel’s early works.

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About Margaret L. Portillo

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